Expat Health Insurance

Articles on health insurance expats in China will find useful.

Cost of health insurance compared around the world

Cost of health insurance compared around the world

A new report, the Cost of International Health Insurance Report – 2017, says that the average cost of health insurance in China have decreased. Using the premiums charged by ten of the top insurers in the world, more than 100 countries are compared in the annual paper that aims to give both consumers and industry players information to make better informed decisions when it comes to their own medical coverage.

This week, Pacific Prime China discusses some of the key findings of the report, and what its information can do for you.

Inside the Cost of Health Insurance report

Now in its third year, this annual study into international insurance premiums has already been featured by Human Resources Online and on global insurer William Russell’s own site. What you can expect to see in the Cost of International Health Insurance Report – 2017 is similar to previous years; some background on the report’s scope, a ranking section of the 20 most expensive and five least expensive areas, and an analysis section on what factors are driving prices.

In the ranking section, China features as the fourth most expensive country in the world for international insurance costs.

Rank Country Average Cost

USD

% of
1 US 19,724 100.0%
2 Hong Kong 12,585 63.8%
3 Singapore 10,732 54.4%
4 China 10,695 54.2%
5 Canada 10,263 52.0%

Whilst this may look like cause for alarm for insurance consumers in China, the fact is that the country has fallen one spot since 2016. For the first time ever, Singapore has found itself with a higher average cost for international insurance. The United States and Hong Kong, however, retain their 1-and-2 spots from previous years.

This year’s report has found that many countries have seen their average premium costs hold to the same figures as 2016, while some have surprisingly seen their average costs reduced. Key to understanding the dynamics of the insurance market is understanding what might be driving the changes in the costs of insurance plans for insurers.

What’s driving prices?

Part of the analysis of the report includes a look at what factors are influencing the costs of international insurance premiums around the globe. For 2017, the primary drivers of the cost of insurance are:

  • Increased demand for international quality private care
  • Increasing cost of health care
  • Increased regulation
  • Continuing challenges related to insurance fraud

As the focus of the report is on international insurance, these points may not be as salient for locally sourced plans. That said, there is still some crossover between the drivers of insurance premiums both globally and at a country-level. Reading the report itself provides a greater discussion about what makes these drivers important for anyone thinking about the cost of health insurance.

The cost of health insurance in China

China remains in the top-tier of countries in terms of the most expensive locations for health insurance.

China

2016

China

2017

USD 10,881 USD 10,695

The country itself has been working hard in the past decade to make healthcare more affordable and guaranteeing access to modern services to every person in the country. This may be a significant factor in reducing the cost of healthcare, but it doesn’t quite explain the reduction in international insurance. One such explanation may lie in the supply and demand of insurance products in China.

In 1980, little more than 10,000 expatriates were registered as working in China. Now there are more than 900,000 and growing, meaning the demand for international insurance is on the rise. With the market being heavily regulated, those insurers who operate within China’s borders do so extremely competitively. This could mean that policy prices dropped in the past year in order for insurers to try and attract the increasing demand from arriving expats.

However, as previously mentioned, China has fallen one place on the list of most expensive locations as the average cost of international health insurance in Singapore sees the tiny nation-state jump two places to claim the third highest rank. This is in part to a slight increase in Singapore’s average cost, as well as China’s modest decrease.

Who is this report for?

The information contained in the Cost of International Health Insurance Report – 2017 will be useful for anyone interested in the insurance market. For insurers, it gives an idea of just how price competitive their international insurance plans are in various countries across the globe. For consumers, it provides a reference point for what they can expect to pay for plans in specific locations.

Whether you’re an individual, human resource executive, or business owner, this recently released report can provide handy insights to ensure that you can make the best decision possible about insurance. Another sound decision can be to engage the services of an expert insurance broker, like Pacific Prime China. Their expert team has been using market intelligence like this for almost 20 years.

For a free quote, or a chat about how our services can find you a better insurance deal, contact the team at Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Luther in Expat Health Insurance
Family health insurance in China: 10 tips on getting the right plan

Family health insurance in China: 10 tips on getting the right plan

Protecting the health and wellbeing of your family with the right family health insurance plan will give you all much-needed peace of mind and financial security should any unexpected illnesses occur. Those looking for a family plan will quickly discover that there’s no such thing as a one-version-fits-all health insurance policy, as the right coverage will depend on your family’s needs. To help, we’re going to cover the following 10 most important things to consider when it comes to securing the right health insurance plan for your family.

1. Choosing the right level of coverage for your needs

When finding a family health insurance plan in China, one of the most important things you will need to make a decision on is your family’s required level of coverage. Coverage levels vary significantly between different insurers and plans; Some plans will only cover basic hospitalization fees, whereas more comprehensive plans will cover GP visits, checkups, vaccinations, maternity, etc. Below are the three main levels of coverage:

Inpatient only

Typically speaking, inpatient plans cover any treatment that the patient is admitted to hospital for, i.e. treatments that involve a stay at the hospital. This includes coverage for expenses like surgery charges, ambulance, operating theater fees, anesthetist charges, etc. Inpatient plans from reputable insurers will tend to also include cover for emergency evacuation, cancer coverage, emergency cases of chronic conditions, etc. When securing health insurance for your family, we advise that you at least get inpatient coverage, as these treatments can be extremely expensive in China.

Inpatient and outpatient

The outpatient benefit is an optional addition to inpatient coverage, and covers medical treatment that does not require hospitalization, eg. day to day doctors, specialist visits, and prescription medication. Sometimes outpatient coverage will also include physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment, e.g. acupuncture.

Full coverage

For more comprehensive coverage, there’s also the option to include extra add-on benefits in your plan for maximum protection. These add-ons, often referred to by insurers as “riders”, include options such as maternity, vision, and dental coverage.

Know this about maternity insurance

For those thinking of welcoming a new addition to their family, it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to plan for the future and secure maternity insurance well ahead of conception. This is because maternity plans tend to come with a waiting period of around 10 to 12 months (and sometimes even longer), meaning that you’ll need to wait that period of time before you can receive any reimbursements on claims made against that benefit.

2. Deductible and copayment options

Cost sharing options such as introducing a deductible or a copayment to your plan can be a great way to get a discount on your premium.

A deductible is the amount of money you must pay first, either on an ‘annual, per person’ basis or an ‘annual, per medical condition, per person basis’, before your insurer pays anything. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the deductible, the lower your premium will be – and vice versa. It is often advised that people choose to have a higher deductible on their inpatient coverage and a lower one on their outpatient treatment (if applicable), as it is much more likely that you and your family will be using the outpatient benefit.

On the other hand, a copayment is the amount you pay each time you submit a claim after the deductible has been met. As with deductibles, introducing a copayment to your plan can help reduce your premiums, but it can be risky for those of you on a tighter budget, especially if you have a large number of doctor visits in a year.

3. What you need to know about ‘High Cost Providers’

Hospital costs vary significantly in China, with some hospitals charging very affordable fees, and other more well-known private hospitals in major cities with English speaking doctors generally charging a lot more for care. These more expensive facilities are referred to by insurers as ‘High Cost Provider’s (HCPs).

Some plans will give you the option of excluding or limiting coverage at HCPs, e.g. a 20% copayment on treatments received at HCPs, which would mean your insurer would pay only 80% of the cost. This can be a great way to reduce your premium, but please bear in mind that making a copayment of 20% at HCPs can still be very expensive, especially for an inpatient procedure.

4. Area of coverage

Are you looking for family health insurance that covers you in China only, or one that covers you overseas as well, including your home country? In terms of the area of coverage, we would recommend expats living in mainland China to obtain a plan that covers both China and Hong Kong, at the very least. This is because Hong Kong has some of the best hospitals in the whole of Asia.

On the other hand, you may also want to consider an international health insurance plan. Covering your family both in China and overseas, these plans are globally portable, meaning that if you relocate to another country in the future, or return to your home country, your plan will protect you wherever you go.

Does international health insurance include USA coverage?

Most international health insurance plans will exclude the US as an area of coverage, mostly because of the high cost of healthcare in the US. If you wish to have USA coverage, you may do so by:

  • Choosing a plan that covers elective treatment in the US, if you can afford it. This option allows your family to travel to the US for planned surgery. That being said, this option is very expensive, and can cost 1.5 times or more than the cost of a worldwide plan that excludes the USA.
  • Opt for emergency USA inpatient coverage – this will ensure your inpatient emergency costs are covered, but your outpatient emergency costs won’t be covered.
  • Another option is to purchase a comprehensive annual travel insurance plan that covers you anywhere up to 30 days outside of China. These plans are a cheap option for short term travelling, although they do not offer the tax receipt that most companies will require for reimbursement in China, so this may need to be paid for out of pocket.

5. Do you or your family members have any pre-existing conditions?

Do you or your family members already have, or previously had any illnesses, ailments, or injuries? These are considered pre-existing conditions, and you’ll often see it excluded in health insurance plans. That said, some insurers will cover certain pre-existing conditions. They may cover these conditions by either placing an additional premium on your plan, while others will offer the option of placing a waiting period on that particular condition.

If you are lucky, in some cases these conditions may even be covered at no extra cost. To ensure you get the pre-existing condition coverage you need, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced broker like Pacific Prime China for more information.

6. Can I get an individual health insurance plan for my child?

If you’re looking to secure separate health insurance coverage for your child instead of obtaining family health insurance, you may do so. However, please bear in that mind that almost all insurers will not offer this option. That said, there are ‘child alone’ options available, with some costing only RMB 9,000 annually.

7. Is the insurer reliable?

When purchasing health insurance, it’s also important to consider the reputation, service, and reliability of the insurer. Generally speaking, the cheaper the insurance plan, the less reliable on claims they are. This is why it’s so important to choose a reputable insurance company, so that you can have an insurance plan that you and your family can count on.

8. How often do you want to pay for your family health insurance?

Most insurers in China require annual payment, but some will allow you to make semi-annual or sometimes even monthly payments. However, the latter options will carry a surcharge. Another thing to be aware of is that Chinese regulations will not accept international credit cards for monthly payments.

9. Will there be annual premium increases?

When it comes to renewing your family health insurance plan for the following year, it’s important to know that paying increased premiums is inevitable. As a general rule of thumb, smaller insurers with less financial stability will have less stable, more erratic increases, whereas large reputable insurers will tend to have more gradual premium increases (based on medical inflation, age increase, etc).

10. Consult an experienced broker

Some people believe that insurance intermediaries charge higher premiums for insurance. The truth is, reputable insurers like Pacific Prime China offer the same rates as the insurers we work with. Not only will you be getting the same rates, but you will also benefit from extra services such as our expertise in finding the best plan for your needs, as well as additional help on your renewals and claims submissions.

For more information on finding the best family health insurance plan, be sure to contact us today for impartial advice, as well as a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance
An expat’s guide to medical emergencies in China

An expat’s guide to medical emergencies in China

From car accidents to severe food poisoning and heart attacks, medical emergencies can happen to anyone, anytime and anywhere. As an expat, it’s important that you are aware of how medical emergencies are dealt with in China, and how to prepare yourself in case you come across any unforeseen events. To help, we’ve created this informative guide containing key tips on preparing for and dealing with medical emergencies in the middle kingdom.

Know your hospital

It’s always important to know where your nearest hospital is located, and whether they provide accident and emergency services.

Public hospitals

Public hospital treatment in China is very affordable, but the quality of care, service levels and cleanliness standards can vary significantly. Expats who wish to utilize the public system should be aware that you should be able to communicate in Mandarin, as most of the staff will not be able to speak English.

VIP clinics

Big Chinese public hospitals like Zhongshan in Shanghai have VIP clinics (gaogan bingfang). Most VIP clinics will have English speaking doctors, offer more privacy compared to public hospitals, and will recognize many insurance companies. That being said, prices are much higher in VIP wings, e.g. staying in a VIP room will set you back by RMB 800+, whereas staying overnight at a “common” room would cost only RMB 15 to 20.

Please keep in mind that a lot of urgent VIP clinics may only operate during regular working hours, so you may end up in the local emergency room if you require emergency medical attention outside of these hours.

Foreign-run hospitals

Foreign-run hospitals are generally the most expensive option, as they offer a very high quality of medical care, comfortable rooms, and are often equipped with better technology. Medical staff in these hospitals are able to speak English and sometimes can also speak a range of other foreign languages. However, for medical emergencies you should check beforehand whether the hospital has an emergency department, as not all foreign-run hospitals will have one. Also be sure to check whether the ER runs on a 24-hour basis.

While the many perks offered by foreign-run hospitals are indeed attractive, the price tag can easily cost over ten times the price charged for the same procedure at a public hospital. For instance, an emergency surgical procedure can cost as much as RMB 50,000! With this in mind, relieving potential financial burden with a comprehensive health insurance plan is essential.

The ambulance system

The number to call for an ambulance in China is “120”. Ambulances from public hospitals are often not equipped with comprehensive medical equipment, and the personnel as well as the 120 line operator will generally speak little to no English. Response times will vary, e.g. sometimes the ambulance will come in under 15 minutes and sometimes you may need to wait over an hour due to adverse traffic conditions. In many cases, taking a taxi, or asking a loved one or a friend to drive you to the hospital may be a better, faster alternative.

Bring someone with you

If possible, it’s a good idea to find a bilingual friend to accompany you to the hospital, especially if you’re going to a local facility, as they can help talk to the medical staff on your behalf. If you do choose to avail yourself of the ambulance system, they can also help you by communicating with ambulance personnel (e.g. requesting the ambulance to go to a particular hospital). What’s more, having someone there with you can really speed up the whole medical emergency process, especially if you’re in great pain and finding it very difficult to collect your own medication.

Bring cash

Most foreign-owned hospitals are equipped to bill international insurers directly, so many expats prefer to hold an international health insurance plan to make medical billing easy. In many public hospitals however, a direct payment may not be accepted. If you don’t have any cash on you, Triple A rated hospitals tend to have what’s called a “green lane” that treats the patient if the hospital’s director signs off on it – usually if you’re someone “important” or if they believe that you will be able to pay them back later. In lower tier hospitals (usually in smaller cities), they may reject you if you have no money on hand, even for medical emergencies. No green lanes here.

Medical emergencies and your health insurance

Understanding your health insurance policy is a very important aspect of preparing for medical emergencies in China. Know where the nearest emergency facilities are near your home, office, and your child’s school, and be sure to ascertain whether they will accept your insurance plan or not. Working with a broker and insurer who has a Chinese Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) code (like Pacific Prime China) will also help drastically decrease the chances of your insurance being rejected.

Looking to learn more about medical emergencies and your health insurance in China? Be sure to contact us today, and our experienced experts will be more than happy to offer impartial advice for your needs, as well as a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance
Motorbike changes in China: What it might mean for you

Motorbike changes in China: What it might mean for you

Last year China set itself an ambitious five-year plan to help address climate change. As part of its push to reduce emissions, some of you may remember news about the e-bike ban in March of 2016. The government moved to ban the use of e-bikes in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen in order to gradually remove illegal scooters and mopeds from the roads for safety and environmental reasons.

The result has seen a number of riders swarm motorcycle plate registration centers around Shanghai with many temporary plates for scooters and mopeds expiring on March 1 of 2017. In the Jiading District, about 600 applicants had arrived daily to get new plates for their vehicles near the Jia’an Highway. But why the rush and what does this mean for motorcycle riders in China?

Why are e-bikes, scooters and mopeds being targeted?

The China transportation authority statistics showed that 31,404 accidents in Beijing involved e-bikes, with 113 killed and over 21,000 injured. With the capital estimated to have four million e-bikes, the fact that they account for near 37% of all traffic accident injuries means the government has had to think of ways to deal with their high risk of incidents and rider habits of ignoring traffic rules.

Furthermore, vehicle emissions accounted for a whopping two-thirds of Beijing’s air pollution, with much of the danger also passing to nearby provinces such as Hebei. With all but one of the capital city’s power generation stations being non-renewable (including three coal powered stations), even the four million e-bikes will have their eco-friendly status tested during recharging.

New traffic fines for scooters and mopeds

In Shanghai, people riding scooters and mopeds without appropriate license plates could be fined up to ¥200 yuan if caught by traffic police. Applying for a plate is as simple as visiting a registration center with your identity card, a photocopy of your ID, and a certificate of quality for your scooter. Foreigners should also be aware that these laws also apply to them, so if you own a motorbike it’s worth checking that it’s road legal after March 1.  

Scooter and moped restrictions

The website SH Bicycle has a list of approved and legal mopeds/scooters, although the site’s content is currently only available in Chinese. In Shanghai, the city only allows scooters and mopeds with a top speed of 20 kilometers an hour or less. Riders should also note that the bike dimensions may only be 30 centimeters wide and 1.35 meters long.

If your vehicle exceeds those restrictions, you can expect the transport authority to decline your application for an approved license plate.

Staying safe on Chinese roads

One of the other reasons for the government targeting of mopeds and scooters is to reduce the chance of accidents, injury and death on the roads. With both campaigns against drunk driving and testing delivery drivers on road safety, roads in Shanghai and other cities can be fairly dangerous. Getting vehicle insurance is smart for ensuring your personal property, but what about your health?

Pacific Prime China has a number of expert advisers who can make sure you’re insured healthcare-wise should something happen on Chinese roads. Their more than 15 years’ experience means that you can be sure that the insurance coverage you pay for will cover you if the unthinkable happens.

For a free quote, or for just some friendly advice on insuring your health as a motorbike rider, contact the team at Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Luther in Expat Health Insurance
China health insurance: Pros and cons of local vs. international plans

China health insurance: Pros and cons of local vs. international plans

Working abroad in China can be both a wondrous and daunting experience. In a land with such a rich culture and varied terrain, one can easily be captivated by the country’s beauty and color. However, the environmental hazards that have come with modernization and challenges faced by those that are not fluent in Mandarin can certainly take a toll on China newbies. Perhaps this is no better exemplified than the Chinese healthcare system, where greatly varying levels of care and foreigner-friendliness can leave expats guessing as to which direction to go. On top of the issue of medical care, there is also the issue of payment. That’s why it’s good to have an overview of the pros and cons of both international and local China health insurance plans, which Pacific Prime China provides below.

China health insurance

Before getting into the pros and cons of each type of plan, it would be good to mention the pros and cons of insurance policies themselves. This gives us a good base of knowledge before we focus on the finer aspects of local vs. international health insurance.

Pros

  • Having private China health insurance allows for access to private healthcare facilities with doctors that speak languages from all over the world. If your medical Mandarin is far from fluent, this is going to go a long way towards helping put you at ease should you need to visit the hospital with a serious condition. After all, effective communication with medical professionals is a must when it comes to effectively addressing your own health needs.
  • Another advantage of accessing private hospitals in China is the shorter waiting times that are found there. This will ensure that you are not placed on a waiting list to receive treatment should the hospital deem it to not be an emergency. Private hospitals will treat you quickly and efficiently.
  • Finally, private hospitals, while they cost more for treatment, generally provide a higher quality of care for their patients. This is due to their possession of the latest medical equipment, as well as internationally trained medical staff.

Cons

Medical insurance isn’t without its drawbacks, including the following:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Exclusions
  • Age limits

However, depending on your specific needs, there may be plans available that address these items.

Now let’s dig into the differences between local and international China health insurance.

Local insurance

Pro

By far the biggest advantage of sticking with a local insurance plan is that it will always come with a lower price tag. Since medical costs are well controlled in China, insurers recognize that the risk to them when it comes to covering said costs are not as high. Comparatively, places like the United States and Hong Kong have some of the most expensive healthcare in the world. Therefore, if an insurance company provides global coverage, they are opening themselves up to greater risk, so they charge a higher premium.

Con

As alluded to above, local China health insurance plans only provide healthcare coverage inside of China. This means that if you were to travel anywhere outside of Mainland China’s borders, you will not have any health insurance coverage with your local plan, and will have to pay for treatment out of pocket unless you secure a separate insurance plan. 

International insurance

Pros

  • Pretty much the main reason to purchase an international health insurance plan is the freedom of choice that it affords you. Not only can you travel to virtually any country worldwide in order to receive medical treatment, you can also choose any hospital or doctor worldwide as well. You will never have to think, “I wonder if they’ll even treat me in this country,” because you will always have proof that you are covered by a reputable global insurance company.
  • Another often overlooked feature of international health insurance plans is that you can take your policy with you no matter where you go. With local insurance plans, if you or your family decides to move outside of China permanently, you will have to purchase a new insurance policy in your new home country. Under this scenario, any conditions developed while on your local China insurance plan will likely be treated as pre-existing conditions by the next insurer, and coverage will not be able to be obtained in many cases. However, with an international plan, you can simply take your plan with you and still receive full coverage.
  • Finally, there are features that you can find in an international health insurance plan that are not present in local plans. For example, medical evacuation is included in international plans. This feature will relocate you to the nearest appropriate medical facility if the one you are in is ill-equipped to address your medical needs. If possible, you may even be able to be flown home for treatment. Many international plans also come with 24-hour customer assistance that will help you make medical arrangements when you are abroad. The assistance this service provides can certainly be invaluable.

Con

Again costs are higher when it comes to international health insurance. You do potentially get a whole world more out of your plan, but you need to make sure that an international health insurance plan is right for you. If you rarely travel, a plan with global coverage may be unnecessary. However, if you do find yourself outside of the country regularly, this type of plan may be ideal for you.

Regardless of which type of insurance is right for you, Pacific Prime China can help. We specialize in international health insurance plans that provide coverage both in your country of residence, as well as virtually anywhere else in the world. Of course, we also sell local plans that will address costs only in China for a lower premium. For more information, contact the helpful insurance advisers at Pacific Prime China today! They are standing by to answer any of your questions, provide you with plan comparisons from some of China’s best insurance companies, and give you a free price quote.

Posted by Travis Jones in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance